This Blog Post is About Scrub Planes.
Had I said roughing planes, only a few would have understood. Even in the 1960s old wooden planes, the Stanley scrub plane and even the Stanley furring plane would have been referred to as roughing planes because, in typical fashion, the plane derived its name from its function.
In my dim and distant past (yes this is me 25 years ago or so) I worked with many men 40 years older than myself and all the way up to being 80+ years old. My personal tools then were all squeaky new of course, but the tools in the tool chests and joiner’s boxes these men treasured were all very, very old. Older even than them. I don’t think I was even remotely capable of seeing then that the value in these tools could not be appraised in monetary value but by the provision they were to the men from two world wars in making everything from children’s toys to fine furniture and door frames to coffins. Today, 50 years later, I understand their real worth.
I Keep Old Tools to Work With Because They Work; Not Because They Look Nice
Today many planes from the past are somewhere near to my bench and the throats vary according to use. It’s here that I want to share something i think has value to us as woodworkers. It’s a little bit about the history of planes that may offer insight. In time past I have shared that old wooden planes were never abandoned because they didn’t work or indeed work well. They were abandoned because they didn’t keep pace with the industrialising of craft and the art of work. The whole process of plane making was an art that required great skills in both woodworking and metal working to make the tools of the plane maker. The wood too required specific parameters to produce tools that would remain stable. Though wood was dried in large quantities, distilling this down, a plane blank for your average bench plane, regardless of length, would at very minimum be 5 years before the plane would come from the hands of its maker.
For Centuries Woodworking Craftsmen in Different Trades Made Their Own Planes and Tools
Though wooden plane making ultimately became a specialist woodworking trade within the realms of carpentry and joinery, this only happened after centuries of craftsmen making their own planes according to their given trade. Coopers and wheelwrights, joiners, carpenters, boat builders and 50 others all developed their own specialist planes and tools. Making a plane was a 3-4 hour process and from new the plane served its maker for many decades.
The Evolution of the Roughing Plane
In the beginning the plane started life as a plane with tight tolerances. Cutting edges were bedded only 1-2mm from the front aspect of the sole , which created the closed throat needed for fine shaving work. Such a plane brought into service for close and fine work would work for a decade or so before wear began to take its toll. It made sense to create a new plane alongside the more used one as the wear became apparent but before too much wear took place. That being so, the new plane would run alongside the older in tandem in the same way a shepherd runs a new dog alongside the old so that he’s never without a dog. As the original plane sole became worn and needed truing because of wear and unevenness, the mouth opening became marginally wider and more open. Another decade and the mouth would be too wide for fine work and so the second plane began to replace the first. It’s at this point that the craftsman transfers the original plane to its new work working the distorted surfaces resulting from air drying wood and saving his finer plane for finer work. The cycling continued and three or four small smoothing planes would see a craftsman through his decades as a working craftsman.
Wooden Planes Performed Exceptionally and Were Never Replaced By Anything Better
Now then, try to remember that these wooden planes were not simply old fashioned models being replaced by something better and newer. That wasn’t the case at all. Also try to remember that they weren’t called scrub planes as we know the term either. They did however perform the same task. It’s important to know that woodworkers were using wooden planes for these different tasks for centuries and that they were in no way inferior to anything produced with modern-day all-metal planes. These crafting artisans in wood resisted the introduction of the all-metal cast iron and steel planes with legitimate cause. The reason they resisted the new planes was not that they shunned change for the sake of it or were merely nostalgic, but that their wooden planes were, in their hands, flawless designs in functionality in every way and actually worked better than the new all-metal ones. They were much lighter in use, almost frictionless in motion wood on wood, were more stable and they could be refined whenever or if needed. Cycling through three or four planes made from the off cuts of a beech table or bed leg was simply the practice of the day. Running planes side by side meant staggered stages of wear levels in the throat and so planes were adapted and adopted to different levels of roughness for the removal of undulation and twist to rough prep boards for the jack and jointer planes. The shorter the sole the kore localised the ability to rough-down highs and of course the easier to turn the plane to task in tackling grain variance of direction and so on.
Ultimately, planes with large and open throats could scrub off masses of wood.
The Scrub Plane Emerges
So, as you can see, when the wooden planes were ousted by the cheaper alternative all-metal ones that required only assembly-line production, it became only a matter of time before one replaced the other. Add into that the demands of a world war on timber resources for every aspect of industrialism and you suddenly begin to see how the demise of the wooden bodied planes took place. Machining in woodworking lessened the demand on hand methods too, to the point that one, by one, the wooden planemakers of Britain and Western Europe began dropping like flys. In tandem with the demise the need for a roughing plane made from metal was needed to replace the wooden versions. Remember there was no secondhand market for planes as we might know it now in the sense of family members selling off their great grandfather’s old stuff and certainly no world wide web. The term scrub was most likely in use long before Stanley came developed their version in the all-metal scrub. There can be no doubt that Stanley adopted the descriptive name and so created a special plane in a category all of its own. Though still a crude looking plane compared to all others, the Stanley scrub could initially be mistaken for a very unique and different plane altogether which is the much rarer Stanley #340 furring plane. I only ever saw and owned one of these planes, primarily because it was a US development in planes and made only in the US. I bought mine for peanuts in 1985 as part of a collection of tools and planes owned previously by a working craftsman. Just like the the term used for the scrub plane, furring plane to me implies it was used to remove furry and rough surfaces left by the sawyers after sawing, hence the minimalist surface area of the sole with only four square inches of sole in contact with the wood at any given time as apposed to 11 square inches with the scrub plane and 20 square inches with a regular smoothing plane. frictionless humped area around the mouth and the hollows either side to the toe and heel.
Those operating the machines would use the plane to take off furring from the ripped wood before second and subsequent passes on the saw if the wood had deviated slightly or left too much furring on the surface. The plane would be used both with (along) the grain and at a tangent to the grain equally. This plane will most likely never be replicated because its use is so very limited.
We Lose the Art and Craft of Plane Making
In all of this we saw a close to an era; a tradition of craftsmanship destined to die, save for one or two lingering makers who continued into the early 1960s. For a few decades wooden plane making died and became extinct and to a great extent that has remained the same. Two or three individuals in the USA and the UK have become independent planemakers intent to develop their own niche market for making and selling wooden planes made by hand. There are enough collector users to keep them in business.
The post Old Men, Old Planes, Old Ways Now Gone – The Origin of Scrub Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
Apologies for the delay in posting this; I took a few days’ vacation in Maine after the Lie-Nielsen Open House, then the last 10 days or so to catch up (well, to try to catch up…I’m not quite yet there). A lot of folks have e-mailed with questions about new tools on the horizon from Lie-Nielsen (I know most of you know what I’m talking about…); While Thomas Lie-Nielsen is […]
My goal for today was to get the Thorsen side table more or less constructed today, leaving the finishing to do at the same time as the “Thorsen Cabinet” I’m making. I think I’m at that point, although I may need to re-make the lower shelf. More about that in a bit.
Yesterday I got the joinery finished on the breadboard ends for the top. Picking up from there, the next job was to make all of the “mortises” for the ebony pegs. I picked up a set of the square punches the Lee Valley sells. Well, it was a father’s day gift from my wife. OK, actually my wife forgot to get me anything, so I got them for myself. So she wouldn’t feel bad. Right?
Anyway, these are very handy. They made short work of the Sapele. When I used them the first time on White Oak they didn’t bite as week as I thought they should, but on Sapele they did the trick without any hesitation. Not that they didn’t work well on the Oak, it just took a few more hits with the hammer than I expected. I’m using a pretty light hammer though.
I laid out all of the locations using a story stick to get the spacing even. I used a marking gauge to find the center of the edges (the breadboard ends are about 1/8″ thicker than the top), and then marked the location with an awl.
Then I drilled each pilot hole. Each punch uses a drill bit that is 3.32″ smaller than the punch size. With a brad point bit it was simple to drop it in the awl mark and drill about 3/8″ to 1/2″ deep.
Then I used the drill to locate the square chisel over the hole. I used a small square to get the chisel straight, then removed the drill bit and hammered the chisel in.
After pulling the square punch out of the hole I use a smaller chisel to break up the waste and clean the bottom of the hole. It only takes a minute to do one hole – it took longer to write this than to do the holes I think.
The other thing I had to do — which took way longer than the horses — was to shape the ends of the breadboard caps and sand everything smooth. I started with a 1/8″ round over bit, then 150 grit shop roll and a single cut file. Then lots of hand sanding to try to get organic-looking contours and make everything feel nice to the touch. Finally I wet the parts to raise the grain.
I used a little glue in the middle, and screwed through the breadboard end (in the square holes) to hold these together. I made the screw holes slightly oversized, hopefully enough to allow the wood to move.
I also notched the corners for the lower shelf and cut a rabbet on the back. Unfortunately, the lower shelf cupped pretty badly since I made it last weekend. With the middle sitting flat the ends are at least 3/16″ up off the bench. I’m hoping it will straighten itself out by laying it on the garage floor overnight. If not, I’ll have to make another part.
I like how the table looks at this stage, once I get the ebony plugs in and build up some color it should be a nice piece.
I have a boatload of ebony pegs to make, maybe one night this week I can get out in the shop can do that. Then the stained glass for the Thorsen cabinet, and finish.
Just finished this rare set of Anton Berg socket chisels. The original handles were removed and the steel de-rusted in my electrolysis tank. Then they were put through a process I call “brightening”. This is a light polish where no measureable amount of metal is removed. Then I made new handles, replicating the originals, from hickory. These chisel are ready for another generation of service.
As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.
Over the weekend we went to a family friends 50th birthday party.
It was also my birthday but I don't like lots of fuss and attention and just as I thought I'd got away with it, I was presented with this beautifully made (and tasting!) cake. The four candles represented the difference in our ages, unfortunately I'm older than her.
The miniature chisels and planes were very well done and a lovely touch, thanks very much Theresa.
I keep plugging away. Yesterday I got to use some planes!
What a blast - the spoons and bowls are great fun, challenging, etc…but no planes. I need to make a molding to run around my most recent frame & panel – it’s one like this, all I have left is to make the molding & cut & glue it in.
I keep a stash of riven Atlantic White Cedar, just for this purpose. First, I planed the stock to the proper thickness, in this case 1/2″
Then I dig out one of those special wheelie gauges to mark out the rabbets, a la Matt Bickford. You already know I’m a fan; his book & video show you how to tackle this work easily. http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/mouldings-in-practice & http://www.lie-nielsen.com/dvds/moldings-in-practice/
The gauge I got from the Alexander collection – thanks once again JA.
and bevels, then hollows and rounds.
Then it was time to pack it away & off to the Cape Cod League Baseball – we went to Wareham to see the Gatemen take on the Falmouth Commodores. We were there early, so Daniel watched batting practice – I carved spoons. Then we watched the game. Gatemen blew the lead in the ninth – took it on the chin.
One of many great things about working at home is that I get to see stuff I only used to hear about. Here’s a marble game from yesterday:
That then turned into a painting by Daniel, who was learning about shadows and light sources this week.
This one’s just thrown in there – it’s part of an ongoing series of raking light shots.
In this weeks show we talk with Josh Mcvety, Josh is an artist working in multiple materials to find the balance between form and function. In this episode Josh we talk about crafts education, attending blacksmithing school, getting your work into galleries, and the art community.
It wasn't like watching the Cubs at Wrigley Field ( thanks again, Dave and Stacy ) but it was great to get out and see some local entertainment over a concession stand hotdog or two! Tony and Jeff even ran me through the basics of the game…. possibly with the exception of the 'balk?' I saw it happen, but I still have no idea what happened? Great ball game though.
A show about stained glass made my dovetails better. Yes, it’s true. I’ve told the story many times, but I don’t recall if I’ve written it in this blog. Here’s the abbreviated version. I was deep into watching a TV show about stained glass. As I watched, I was amazed at how easy stained-glass makers cut and broke the glass they used. Grab a good-quality glass cutter, etch the outline of what they wanted then snap the piece free right at the line no matter what its shape. They had confidence.
The next day while in my shop facing a stack of 11 drawers for a high chest of drawers ready to dovetail (shown above), I decided that I too should have the confidence to cut dovetails better and quicker; I had to find and use that confidence. That day I completed all 11 drawers and they were the best dovetails that I had ever cut. Confidence is the key.
Since that day, I have had confidence in cutting glass as well. I know it’s going to snap at the etched line. That’s what it’s suppose to do. Yesterday, I put my confidence to the test. I cut the glass to fit the tombstone design on the Egerton hood doors. Plus, to make the job even more challenging, I used reproduction glass that has waves and imperfections in the glass.
There is a key to making this work. The secret is in the door. Take a look at the backside of the door (you can see it better in the inset photo). If you look close, you’ll see how the corners of the frame are rounded. Years ago I tried to keep those corners square – that was almost an automatic failure when cutting this design for a door. (I did have a glass expert cut a panel for the first hood door I built and he used a sander to square the corner.)
To get the glass cut to fit, I begin with a panel that’s sized to fit the width and is cut to the final length but without the tombstone cut. Next, lay the rectangular sheet into the door frame with its bottom edge in the frame and the top section riding just above the arched portion of the door. From there, take a permanent marker and trace the design of the tombstone door onto the piece of glass; complete both halves (the apex of the arch should terminate at the top edge of the cut glass panel.
Now it’s time to make the cut. As I score the glass, I listen to make sure the cutter is etching the glass. If you do not hear the etching noise, you’re not going to make this work. With the glass scored, it’s time to put to use that ball shape that’s on the non-business end of the cutter – before I began cutting glass, I wondered what that ball was for. To snap the glass, hold the corner firmly with a slight downward pressure then tap the underside using the ball end. If you watch closely, you can see the etch turn into a break right at the scored line. Be patient, but have confidence.
In a short amount of time, the piece snaps off and you’re left with half of the tombstone top cut. The first half is the easiest because if you don’t complete the job, you begin again. The second cut is when you need to summon all your confidence. If the second cut breaks in a less-than-acceptable location, you toss the panel and the completion of the first half. But with your confidence at an all time high due to the adrenaline pumping through your body with the first half cut, you cut and snap the second half in no time. All that’s left is to make sure the piece fits the door. (I had to nip a small piece off the second piece of tombstone glass cut for door #2.)
I have two small square pieces of glass that also fit into the hood. After the tombstone cuts, square cuts are a snap. That’s glass-cutting humor.
Build Something Great!
If you want to build a tool chest or a workbench in 2015 with the assistance of a sasquatch (me), 2015 could be the year. I have just about finished lining up all my classes for next year. While it might seem early to be discussing this, I know that many busy students need to plan their lives a year in advance.
I’ll be discussing these classes in more detail in the coming months. But here is a broad overview.
January: It looks like I’ll be returning to Highland Hardware at the end of the month to teach a weekend class, perhaps on building a Dutch tool chest.
February and March: I return to Australia for a tour of the country – very exciting. Here is the preliminary schedule:
Feb. 23-27. Build a Roubo Workbench at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
Feb. 28-29. Hand Tool Event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
March 2-4. Dutch Tool Chest class at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking
March 6-8. Class at Robert Howard’s School in Brisbane. Topic to be announced.
March 11-13. Dutch Chest class at the Henry Eckert School in Adelaide.
April: I’ll be teaching at the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers April 9-12, topic to be announced.
May: I return to the Woodworkers Club in Rockville, Md., for a week-long class May 4-8. The topic is still up for discussion.
May 15-17. Handworks in Amana, Iowa. Do not miss it.
June 12-19: I return to Dictum (yay!) in Germany to teach classes on building a traditional sawbench, mallet and marking gauge.
June 22-28: I get the honor of teaching at Phil Lowe’s Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. We’ll be building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest for one class and I think we’ll be doing a two-day seminar on tackling the tricky bits for campaign chests – the full-blind dovetails and hardware, in particular.
July: I return to England to teach two classes for the New English Workshop. At this point, one class will be a workbench, the other will be a chest. We’re still working out the details, but both classes will be brand new ones. One of them is a project I’ve been mulling over for years now.
Aug. 10-14. We build Roubo workbenches at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.
Sept. 28-Oct. 2. I’ll be teaching a tool chest class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Just like the classes for the New English Workshop, I can’t say much until we finalize some details. But this will be a class that is very important to me.
There are a couple more classes that I’ll add to the schedule. But the schedule above really is the physical limit for me if I want to build furniture and edit books as well. I do hope you can make it out to a class next year.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Woodworking Classes
I know the blog has been awfully quiet with no new post for quite a while now, and for that I apologize. It's not because there has been no action in the shop the past two months, it's actually been quite the contrary, it's been a hive of activity out there.
Since my last post, I have had visits to the shop from some pretty major players in the woodworking community. People I feel lucky to call my friends and that have taken time from their busy schedules to make the trip to visit me on my home turf.
One of the giants and innovators of furniture finishing, author/translator of great woodworking books, present and future, and one of the smartest men I've ever met, Don Williams, came by for a visit and spent a few hours conversing. It was fun to get an inside peak of all the things he has planned, from books to classes to barn renovations. Don is one hell of a nice guy and has a great blog over at Don's Barn. Oh, and did I mention he is super smart? But he is smart without making you feel dumb; just a real down to earth guy. This was actually Don's second trip down to the shop to visit; he came back in 2012 before I had even finished and moved in. Thanks Don for taking time out of what has got to be one of the busiest schedules of anyone I know to come visit me. It means a lot to me and I sure do appreciate it. OH, AND he bought me gifts of Pollissiors and a chunk of bees wax. So cool!
My next visitor was here at the shop for three days; Master Windsor chair maker Charles Boland. I've gotten to know Charles through SAPFM and from picking his brain at various colonial craft fairs where he exhibits his skills and knowledge. I have always loved and been fascinated by the Windsor chair in it's many forms. Partly because they were ever-present at so many of the events that created our nation in the 18th century, but mainly just because I find them absolutely beautiful. They were the predominant chair in use at the Pennsylvania State House (later named Independence Hall) during the Second Continental Congress, where the 13 colonies voted for separation from Great Britain and ultimately signed the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson actually penned the words to that famous document in a revolving Windsor chair of his design that he had a Philadelphia chair maker build for him. The name of that chair maker escapes me, but I can guarantee you that Charles knows who it was. That's one of the things that makes Charles so special, not only is he a master chair maker and fantastic at his craft, but he is extremely knowledgable on 18th century history in general and has done extensive research on the chairs he has built which adds so much to the authenticity of his chairs.
Anyway, the reason that Charles was at my shop for 3 days was one of the other things that makes him so special, his generosity and kindness. As some of you who follow the blog know, I've been dealing with cancer since March of 2010 and this sometimes leaves me with not as much strength and energy as I used to have. It had always been one of my dreams to build an authentic reproduction of an 18th century Windsor using the traditional methods and, obviously, entirely with had tools. Well, my health had gotten to the point, after a 24 day stay in the hospital, where my wife Jen didn't feel comfortable with me making the 3 hour trek to Springfield, West Virginia and being away from home for a week without her to attend a chair making class at Charles shop. So, unbeknownst to me, this wonderful woman contacted Charles and explained who she was and my situation and asked Charles if there were any way he'd consider coming to MY shop to teach me to build a chair. Well, Charles being the person that he is not only agreed to teach the class at my shop for no additional charge than his normal class fee, but also custom tailored the class to shrink it from 5 days to 3 and take a couple of the more physically taxing processes out of the equation so that my body could handle the class. It worked out great and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Thanks Charles! More details on the build and the finished results coming here soon.
My third visit, a few weeks ago, was from Jerome Bias, author, passionate woodworker, avid historical researcher, joiner at Old Salem Village in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and all around nice guy! I had learned about Jerome by seeing him on an episode of the Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill and by reading an article he did for Popular Woodworking Magazine about Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker and free man of color in North Carolina in the 19th century. Mr. Day was one of the premier cabinetmakers in North Carolina at this time and Jerome portrays him at events and talks that he gives sometimes. Thomas Day was quite the success and has a very interesting story. I highly recommend googling him. But back to Jerome. After knowing about him through the various woodworking outlets I mentioned, I actually got the pleasure to meet him in July of 2013 when I took a week long class at Roy's Place on making a joint stool from instructor Peter Follansbee. We talked quite a bit that week and I instantly knew that he was someone I could hang out with for hours talking woodworking, history, or anything else for that matter. Just a really cool guy to hang out with in general, so I was thrilled a month or so ago when I got an e-mail from him saying he would be in the general area if I was up for a visit. Heck yeah, come by anytime! Well, he did and we hung out in the shop, having lunch and talking woodworking for 3 or 4 hours. I was really sorry he couldn't stay longer. As I said, he's someone I'd never tire of talking to. One of those people were there's never those long periods of silence. Thanks for taking the time Jerome. Hope to see you in September at WIA!
In addition to all the cool visiting woodworking luminaries, I've become rather passionate about another form of woodworking recently; one that isn't so physically taxing. As a matter of fact, I can sit on my arse on my joint stool with a hewing log in front of me for 95% of it. And I'm REALLY enjoying the new challenge. More details on this coming soon to this very blog. :-)
Also, the shop is in the process of PHYSICALLY expanding a bit to make room for some open air, but under the cover of shade work. This expansion will make it possible and give me the space to delve into my latest passion, the pursuit of the dark arts. Muah ha ha!!! And, as you may have guessed by now, more details to come about this in the near future. And yes, to this very website! :-)
Whew, feels good to blog again. Hopefully you guys will be hearing from me again real soon, expanding on the three subjects I spoke of. Until then, take care everyone!
It’s supposed to be blistering here today, close to 90. Regular readers will know that means it will be 100+ in the shop even with the doors and windows open and the fan running, for some reason the garage I use for my wood shop seems to suck up the heat. To beat the heat I got an early start, I was sanding parts at 6:30 am. It took almost three more hours of hand sanding to get everything in good shape for finishing. I had to scrape a few areas where there was some tear out from the plane, and then lots of hand work to blend the contours. I think this approach makes Greene & Greene objects look more authentic, but after hours of sanding I’m thinking of working on developing a taste for flat, square furniture that I can power sand into submission.
The “waterfall” detail on the bottoms of the legs, including the domed end that is on the bottom received a lot of attention, getting the inside radius smooth was all hand work. Once the table is done they will end up being a subtle detail as they are on the bottom of the legs, on the inside faces.
After all the parts were sanded to 320 grit I flew the dust out of the pores and wet them down to raise the grain. Then I lightly sanded them again with worn 320 grit paper.
I did a final check of everything, double checked my assembly numbers to make sure they were legible (nothing like trying to cram the wrong tenon into a mortise while glue is running up your arm). Finally I took a deep breath and decided to glue up the base. I laid out all the parts so they were positioned for the glue up. I set up my clamps, heated up a glass of water to warm the hide glue and said a prayer to the patron saints of sawdust.
I don’t know why glue ups cause me so much stress, but I do know I’m not alone. I read somewhere that even James Krenov stressed over glue ups. Since I’d test fit everything I was pretty sure I’d be ok. I thought about doing the table base glue up in two stages — do two sides, let them cure, then assemble the two sides together. I’m not that patient though, I want to get further along before the weekend is gone.
So, somewhere in this picture, hiding under the clamps is a Greene & Greene table. It looks like I got all of the stretchers in the right orientation this time.
I also got the top for the table roughed out. Last weekend I glued up a panel for the top and cut it to size. I got the joinery for the breadboard ends done this morning too. Before I can assemble this part I need to make an of the mortises for the eight (!) ebony pegs the go around the perimeter of the top. I also need to sand and shape the parts. Hopefully I can get the done today too, and get it assembled. If so, then tomorrow is ebony peg time — and I’ll switch back to the Greene & Greene cabinet.
On the cabinet I need to make the copper frame to hold the stained glass, and take care of a few final details on the door. I doubt I’ll get both projects to the “finishing” stage this weekend, but it should be close. I also have to run a couple of errands, including picking up the screws I need to assemble the top and some stained glass supplies.
Back to it…
And so she asks: “What does it mean? ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest?’”
I take a deep breath and purse my lips a bit. I get asked this question a lot, especially by non-woodworkers, people who haven’t read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and complete wankers.
The truth is, I eschew labels such as “libertarian,” “liberal” and “lemming.” While I am happy to explain my outlook on life, I do it without a whiff of political language. Instead of talking about the political landscape, I’d rather live in the real one.
So my basic response to the question goes like this: I dislike large organizations – governments, corporations, churches. When organizations get enormous, the humans in them tend to do inhumane things, such as start wars, burn each other at the stake or enslave people in factories.
I refuse to participate in those organizations as much as possible. I don’t vote. I don’t give money to churches. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, or really any other chain store. I admit it’s difficult to be Puritanical about this. Buying a car or a computer is difficult without somehow engaging with a large organization, but I do my best.
Most of all, I try to consume less and make more – and not be an a-hole about everything I’ve said above. The world has enough of those, and I’m surprised they don’t have their own organizing body.
If you are interested in American anarchism, or the particular branch that applies to woodworkers – aesthetic anarchism – I encourage you to read the following short bits.
1. The Wikipedia entry on Josiah Warren, the first American anarchist and the founder of the Cincinnati Time Store.
2. The 1906 book on Josiah Warren by William Bailie. It’s available for free here from archive.org.
3. Buy a copy of “Native American Anarchism” by Eunice Minette. Many libraries have the book. You can buy one from AbeBooks.com as well. The book is a bit mistitled. It has nothing to do with Native Americans. It is about anarchism that took root in America.
Most of all, if you think you are an anarchist, refuse to listen to the non-anarchists who dismiss your approach to life. That’s like listening to the factory owners who laugh at hand-tool woodworking as quaint.
The best response to the criticism is to close the laptop, sharpen a chisel and chop some dovetails. As George R.R. Martin writes over and over in his books, “Words are wind.”
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest
In the never-ending quest to answer the timeless woodworker question “what do you do with your scraps?” I have yet another answer, photo clipboards!
Actually, this one came directly from my beautiful and amazing wife Samantha, who was looking for something new to present to her wedding photography clients.
The concept is simple. Take a beautiful piece of scrap wood, shape it a little if necessary, clean up its surfaces so there’s no splinters, apply a simple finish to protect it and attach a clip to one face.
The result is an amazingly simple project that can be as big or small as you need for your presentation and a great way to clean out your scrap pile (or to just experiment with some pricey exotics without breaking the bank.)
Is there a set of values that go along with working wood by hand? I wonder this often and I tell myself that the answer is yes…there are values behind this work besides just needing physical things like furniture, tools, and implements of life. But why does this always end up sounding corny…like I’m trying to convince myself of something.
Why on earth would anyone choose to make their own tools especially….there are plenty of places around to buy tools….WalMart, Sears, Home Depot, etc. What kind of a nut job makes their own tools?
I don’t know….then those values creep up again…
Like a voice inside my head, “Matt…you don’t want to be like every other schmuck and buy a pruning saw at Lowe’s with a plastic handle or tube steel frame pressed out by the millions. You’re better than that.”
Am I? Or do I just like making things because I have ADHD and my hands always have to be working on something? Is it a romantic notion? Is it a political statement?
I don’t make very effective political statements….I think I always end up sounding like an asshole. Maybe I should remember that in the future…talk less, act more. So am I making a statement of action? Am I modeling something for someone? Why do i always have to go Existential on this stuff….why can’t I just enjoy it and shut up???
I don’t know…maybe its a sickness.
And why does my pruning saw have to be special….do I think I’m better than anyone else? Why do I have to use Hawaiian Koa for the handle…wouldn’t beech or dogwood harvested in my own backyard be more appropriate for a ‘home-made’ tool? Maybe…maybe not. If its supposed to mean something, shouldn’t the whole thing mean something…all of its parts, individually and together, have meaning? The Koa was a gift from an early customer who lives in Hawaii…that means something, doesn’t it? Yes…I think so.
But what of the blade…you can make saw blades, right? Why did you buy this one at Sears? Oh…I know why, you’re a hypocrite. I read about you people in college…you say one thing and do another. You say you’re a ‘hand tool only’ woodworker that makes his own tools, but you bought your saw blade at Sears and cut out the handle on a bandsaw (also from Sears).
Why on Earth do I get into these arguments with myself????!?!?! Who gives a crap about any of this! Didn’t you just need a pruning saw and couldn’t find one you liked so you made one? I suppose, but what are the things I whisper to myself while I’m making it to make sure I don’t cop out and give up? Oh…that’s easy…that’s the ‘democracy’ that Copperthwaite writes about, the ‘anarchy’ that Schwarz spouts and the meaning of it all from Korn. I am admittedly drunk on all of it. Its obsessive and powerful and Existential and all of that stuff that gives you that funny feeling you got when you first saw Kelly Flammin in the 6th grade….only a little higher above your belt.
What’s the result of all this?
…something that is uniquely mine….something only I can claim…something important. Its a mark…a physical manifestation of my soul and will and values.
Oh jeez…here you go again…do you really believe that crap?!?! Its a f*@^%!) saw!!! You didn’t cure cancer or paint the Mona Lisa! You cut up a scrap of some dead tree and rubbed it with some plant oil and we’re all supposed to swoon??
No….no swooning please. This isn’t for anyone but me. This is one of the rare, sweet moments of my life when I get to do something for myself. For too many years I forgot how to do that…simply enjoying things for me…for who I am and what is important to me. It does mean something, but not what you think…its not a political statement, or a social revolution or a manifesto I have to sign in blood. Its an affirmation. It means I can always labor in my life to a certain end…I can face things, whatever…and solve problems. By myself? No…no one is by themselves. But for myself maybe..as much as it can be. Maybe not even that.
Are you still there?
Ya…I’m here…just taking it all in. And trying not to puke. You know you sound like a psychopath, right?
Yes…but that’s okay. Its your voice that pushes me…makes me do this stuff to begin with. And I know I’m not the only one…there’s others who feel the same. That’s where the real meaning comes in.
You’re an idiot.
I know. Aren’t we all?